Solar canopies to be installed on Livingston

The Board of Governors approved a $40.8 million operation to install 32 acres of solar canopies on Livingston campus within the upcoming months, making it one of the largest installations of its nature in the country.
The University will install more than 40,000 high-efficiency solar panel canopy structures over two parking areas on Livingston campus, said Joseph Witkowski, director of Utilities Operations.

The project will be constructed at the Yellow and Green parking areas near the Rutgers Athletic Center and at Lot 105, and will not only convert sunlight into electricity but also provide cars shelter from rain and snow, he said.

"The canopies will generate eight megawatts of power," he said. "It will generate 11 percent of the electrical demand needed for Livingston campus and 52 percent of the [general] power needs for the campus."

Typically, solar panels are 15 to 20 percent efficient. But the new panels that the University is considering would produce 9.4 megawatts, yielding about 63 percent efficiency, Witkowski said.

Since its approval two weeks ago, the University is now waiting on bids from construction companies for the project and will choose a vendor in the next three to five months, he said.

Witkowski projects the construction will take about 12 to 14 months once they select a company.

The third party vendor would pay for the upfront costs of the project, essentially owning the solar canopies, but will have the advantage of federal tax subsides to cover fees, said E.J. Miranda, University spokesman.

"Through that arrangement, the University wouldn't have to pay the third party. [Rather,] the third party would be able to take advantage of subsides such as SRECs, Solar Renewable Energy Credits, which act as certificates," he said.

The University plans to purchase the canopies at the end of the 15-year purchase agreement for $3.6 million, Witkowski said. But the overall project will save the University $28 million in electric costs during a 20-year period.

"The facility is expected to generate $1.2 million in electricity annually with no upfront cost to the University, which is great," he said.

Witkowski said he hopes Livingston campus will be completely off the grid within the upcoming years but not relying solely on solar power, rather other fuel alternative sources as well.

There is currently a plan to expand the use of geothermal systems for heating and cooling of new academic buildings, Witkowski said.

"Businesses are now using geothermal temperature as another method for businesses to heat and air condition," he said. "Our goal is not 100 percent solar power but rather save energy with other methods, too."

Khalifa Gopaul, a Livingston College senior and commuter, said the canopies over the cars would not only provide a great protection for her car in the winter but also benefit the environment by reducing carbon emissions.

"The panels may be expensive in the beginning, but they will pay for themselves in the long run," Gopaul said. "It would definitely be a good investment."

Amanda Quinn, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said the solar panels are a great "green" initiative.

"The University should be doing more in terms of going green,'" Quinn said. "People think their efforts are not doing anything because the University is so large. But in actuality, even though we can't see it now, it's doing a lot in the long run and it's worth it."
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